He weighs nearly 500 pounds and is wearing house shoes, sweat pants, a black pullover, and a fedora that’s seen better days. This self-proclaimed panhandler had a small cardboard sign that read, “JUST ASKING FOR GROCERIES”.
The sidewalk was busy at 6pm Friday night, especially at the corner by the light. The funny thing is that even with the hustle and bustle, we spotted each other from 1/2 a block away. He had a good (nearly toothless) grin and a five o’clock shadow.
“Hey buddy, how’s it going?” Probably a dumb question for a middle-aged hobo. “I’m doing great–just asking for money for some bread and milk.” So, off we went to Harmon’s Market, which was “just a couple of blocks away”. After crossing a few streets and several blocks later, I learned that his name was Roger Mysiano, he’s Italian (go figure with that last name!), originally from Massachusetts, spent 15 years as a cab driver in San Francisco (drove Meatloaf around once “the cheap bum wouldn’t give me a ticket!”), has been a dishwasher, worked in a prep kitchen, has an ex-wife and an adopted daughter (lost contact with both of them), and speaks to his brother every Tuesday morning.
I studied the faces and body language of passersby, both on the sidewalk and in the market, as we rolled and strolled and talked like old friends. did I mention Roger was in a wheelchair? “That’s what 15 years in a taxi will give ya.”
Everyone is hungry.
When we made it to Aisle One (the bread aisle), we scoured the shelves of bread, and suddenly he spotted the 9-grain bread that we have often in the Austin home. “That’s the best bread I’ve ever had! My friend Lorraine once made me a sandwich with mayo, tomatoes, and a pinch of salt. One of the best sandwiches I ever had! Is $4.69 too much for ya?” Four dollars and sixty-nine cents: that’s 1/2 the price of the glass of wine I’m having as I write this. “No, Roger, I’m thrilled to get it.” We got two. He was so humble, thankful, and surprised.
What if it’s God speaking?
After we purchased the milk, a cup of coffee, and paid, we headed out the door. “You know what’s funny?” Roger asked. “I had just asked God if he would send someone soon, so I could go home early today.” You should have seen his face when I told him that I was trying to take a nap at the Hilton, was restless, and God told me, “Go take a homeless man to dinner.” He laughed loudly, exclaiming, “You actually thought that in your mind?!” And I replied, “No, Roger, God told me to get up.” He was ecstatic about the groceries, and after telling me all the local food joints, he was preparing to catch the bus and head back to his “neighborhood”. He was completely unassuming, when he realized that I was wanting to treat him to dinner.
He too fat.
Half an hour later, we made it to the Chinese buffet and he was telling me just how much I was “gonna love this place”. We barely made it through the door when the Asian hostess said, “We have no room.” I think I was just as hurt as Roger, and certainly more appalled. The sad thing is that this is what he has come to expect. ”How long is the wait?” And she replied, “Very long. No room. He too fat.” He lowered his head a bit, turned toward me and said, “Fish and chips?” Yes, Roger, fish and chips.
Eye of the Needle
We met three other homeless folks on the train to the restaurant and as they made small talk, Roger introduced the group to, “my friend Steve–he’s from Alabama.” My friend. Yep. We’re friends. I listened to Steve (how ironic) tell me how they had stuff thrown at them all day, been yelled and cursed at, “and do you know the only people who ever help us? POOR PEOPLE!”
Steve quoted Scripture and told me that “Rich people never help. They just drive by in their BMW’s, roll up their windows, and make terrible faces at us.” He reminded us of the story in the Good Book, where it talks about rich people, Heaven, and the Eye of the Needle. “Really tough for rich people to get there.”
Once Roger and I made it to our long-awaited fish and chips, we got settled in, and he began his John Pinette impersonation. Obviously, they favor in size and accent, but his deliver was spot-on. I laughed for the next ninety minutes.
As our time came to a close, I thanked my friend for wonderful food and great company, shook his hand for the second time, and gave him my address and phone number (as requested). I will be looking for my Portuguese sweet bread in the mail from Roger’s brother in Massachusetts.
I walked around in a daze, teary-eyed and full of gratitude. I stopped on a particularly dark portion of the sidewalk, under a tree, looked up at the sky, and said, “Thank You.” As if my perfect night wasn’t enough, Abba bent down and softly spoke into my ear, “I took care of Roger because I love him, and I will always take care of you, too.”
Thank you, Roger, for showing me a very raw and beautiful side of poverty. May I never feel secure in my stuff again.
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” Matthew 10:29-31
4) What I Saw
Thursdays, I am the faculty sponsor for the Christian club at the high school where I work. “First Priority” starts at 7:15am, which means I have to leave my house by 6:15am to arrive on time. As I was backing out of my parking space, I noticed the tire pressure sensor was on, so I stopped at the gas station, which just happened to be half a block from the fire station where my Dad works.
I hurriedly pulled in to check the tire pressure and found a nail in the sidewall of the tire. I’m no mechanic, so I called my Dad, hoping he’d be at work…and he was!
“Hey Dad, I’ve got a nail stuck in the sidewall of my tire, can you patch it real quick? I’m at the gas station right by the fire station!” And the former mechanic replied, “Sorry buddy, you can’t patch something in the sidewall. You’ll need a new tire. But come on over and I’ll help ya get the spare put on so you don’t miss work.”
So I drove on over, a bit discouraged and more than frustrated (tires are about $100 apiece).
We swapped the tires out and my Dad said, “Let me take the old one and I’ll replace it for you today while you’re at work. I know you won’t be back before the store closes this afternoon.”
You can’t patch it, you need a new one.
And you can’t do it yourself.
Let your Father handle it.
That’s what Love Does.
Love doesn’t just patch your holes and hurts.
Love doesn’t just mend.
Love gives you something brand-new.
Love goes out of his way to meet your needs.
Love does the impossible.
Love is a Grease Monkey with dirt under his nails.
Love fights fires.
Love coaches little league or takes you fishing.
Love sits through a choir concert or a school play.
Love works three jobs and shops at the thrift store.
Love does whatever it takes.
There’s still time to win your two free copies of “Love Does” by my friend Bob Goff!
So how do you win a copy?
Here’s how the contest works:
- Submit one true story (up to 500 words) of someone else that you’ve recently observed putting love into action. Someone living with whimsy and just GOING FOR IT! It could be a teacher, a friend, a co-worker, family member, pastor, or anyone else you’ve seen living their life proactively, living with the belief that LOVE DOES.
- Follow @graceismessy on Twitter
- Tweet this: Win a free copy of “Love Does” by @bobgoff! Go to http://messygrace.com today for details! #graceismessy #lovedoes
- Win! A winner will be chosen and announced on Friday May 11. The winner will receive two copies of Love Does by Bob Goff- one to keep and one to share.
Here’s the fine print (please read in your best hurried announcer voice):
The timeline to submit is between now (12:05am Wednesday 5/2/12) and 11:59pm Tuesday 5/8/12.
Submit your story here (just hit “reply” and leave a comment) or email the story to email@example.com
One winner will receive a brand-new copy of “Love Does” plus a second copy of the book to give as a gift to the person you wrote about.
Winner will be notified by email on Friday, May 11, 2012. Winner will also be announced here at http://messygrace.com.
Stories submitted may be posted as a blog entry on this website in the future.
Deadline for submission is 11:59pm Tuesday 5/8/12.